As a reader of the British press, I am more than familiar with stories that throw accusations of bias at the BBC. Interestingly, if I were nothing but a reflection of BBC journalism, I’d be less aware of any bias inhabiting the mainstream of the British newspaper industry. It is rare, perhaps for the sake of choosing not to make enemies more than anything else,  for the Beeb to denounce say The Express or The Guardian as low-grade propaganda with hidden political agendas – something they have been known to accuse each other of.

I think I’ll make it clear at this point; I could not rule myself out as free from bias and I don’t think there are many journalists who can. What so many in the broadsheet business would regard as good quality journalism, essentially independent, accurate, articulate, and engaging communication of events from around the world, would, as a result also accept that the mark of quality journalism lies in the correspondent’s ability to conceal any political agenda if they have one. Subsequently, I do not consider this article a manifesto. I am certainly not trying to invest it with some normative dimension. This is something that needs to be made clear before any individual regardless of their political persuasion can write about the dangers of  partisanship in journalism.

With this in mind, I’d like to explore some of the most common charges of bias leveled at the BBC and the evidence for this, as well as the composition of the prosecution responsible for them. Broadly speaking, those making a case for bias highlight the BBC’s supposedly positive coverage of immigration, and European integration, but are critical of its obsession with climate change, political correctness, and trade unions. Its overly negative depiction of Israel and the Thatcher government are also frequent focus points. All of these, on the whole, can be amassed into a more general criticism, that of a socially liberal and economically left-wing bias.

In this light, it should come as no surprise that the prosecution appears to be a collage of centre-right organisations and individuals, most notably the Daily Mail and The Sun along with other mainstream tabloids, as well as a number of Conservative MPs. No doubt you may feel that such entities are riddled with partisanships themselves, and why, therefore, should their unashamed political prejudice be given any credence at all? Well, firstly, the BBC itself has acknowledged certain failings in journalistic neutrality in certain areas, on a number of occasions. It seems the data documenting BBC apologies is so vast we may have found a more entertaining use for the PRISM program if nothing else.

Focusing on one of the most notable examples, in July 2013, a report commissioned by the BBC Trust found that the organisation had been slow to reflect widespread public concerns about immigration to the UK, and shifts in public attitudes within the UK towards the European Union. The report stated that Helen Boaden (former director of BBC News), had said that upon arriving at the organisation there had been a “deep liberal bias” in the handling of immigration issues.

It is also interesting to see that there have been occasions where the Beeb has come under fire from newspapers that are often deemed to occupy the left, or even claim to transcend the political bias of journalism. Indeed, in 2006, The Independent accused the BBC of being “institutionally homophobic” towards the LGBT community after an investigation by the University of Leeds found 80% of portrayals by the BBC of those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender were found to be negative. In conclusion, it appears evident the anti-BBC prosecution isn’t always some wet dream of the Daily Mail, their claims are not necessarily ideological cat-fighting without empirical basis, and the allegations they have made aren’t always that of a McCarthy-era-like finger pointing at a supposed lefty affiliation.

However, even if we accept these conclusions regarding certain and exceptional accusations as credible, it seems that when organisations and MPs alike, be they Jeremy Hunt or Grant Shapps, make more general claims about the Beeb possessing some deep-rooted, institutional left-wing bias they are, on the whole, considerably flawed.

In fact, research published this year from an academic study at the University of Cardiff concluded that the BBC is biased, but to the right, not the left. Indeed, in an essay to be published this month, Professor Lewis (Dean of Research at Cardiff University and an experienced analyst of the BBC’s output) states: “The available evidence on the BBC centre of gravity does not suggest a leftist tilt. On the contrary, its dependence on certain dominant institutions notably in the business world and the national print media would appear to push it the other way.”

Lewis also argues the BBC was more likely than ITV or Channel 4 News to use sources from the right, such as US Republicans or UKIP politicians, than from the left, such as US Democrats or Green Party politicians. Furthermore, the imbalance of the party leader appearance ratio works in favour of the Conservatives, with the ratio standing at 3:1 Labour, while it stands at 4:1 for ministers and shadow ministers. The research also found that 50 per cent of BBC sources came from politics, business, law and order and media, compared to 10 per cent from knowledge-based professions and civic groups. Business sources accounted for 11.1 per cent of the total on the BBC, but only 3.8 per cent on ITV and 2.2 on Channel 4.

This is made all the more interesting in light of a poll conducted last November that suggested 41 per cent of the public thought the BBC was bias, with 27 per cent of those people saying the bias was towards the left. Just fourteen per cent believed it was to the right.

But what does all this mean? Yes, sometimes the BBC does struggle to meet its own standards of quality and independent journalism. Yes, though the examples supporting this case are relatively exceptional, the evidence for them is empirically speaking, thin. Moreover, the allegations of its left-wing bias are evidently unsound in light of the University of Cardiff’s revelations, and perhaps, those generally voicing their suspicions do tend to lean towards the right. (Though perhaps you might let Jeremy Hunt off the hook for accusing the BBC of prejudice following two of its journalists mispronouncing his name in a comically, if not tragically, wrong manner within the space of one hour in 2010.)

So, let alone the hypocrisy so many national papers deal in when labelling the organisation biased, these allegations are simply unfounded, and perhaps their time would be better spent on upholding their own standards of journalistic integrity. Meanwhile, for individuals and Conservative MPs alike, it seems asking themselves their own political agendas before accusing others is also of particular value.

After all this, the BBC is the one arguably remaining in the most difficult position of all, as any attempt to become more politically neutral, i.e., a move slightly away from the right, will no doubt trigger hysterical cries in both the public and the press of  the Beeb “going red”. No doubt the implication is worrying, for it suggests the possibility that, if anything, the reporting of events with a right-winged slant has become the objective norm of modern British journalism.